When people ask us about our trip to Borneo, we rave about a lot of things. But the first thing we talk about is all the incredible wildlife experiences that are available. Of all the places that we have travelled, Borneo has been the best place we have ever been to when it comes to incredible animal encounters. The below five places are our favourite places in Borneo to get in touch with nature.
Animal Sanctuaries in Sepilok
Sepilok is famous in Borneo for animals. In this small area, near the old capital of Sandakan, there are several animal sanctuaries within walking distance of each other. The most famous and most popular one of these centres is without a doubt, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre. This is probably where you will have your best chance of seeing a semi wild Orangutan. The rehabilitated Orangutans often come to the centre for the daily feeding, although there is always a chance that none will show up. When the trees in the jungle are fruiting, is when you are least likely to see a Orangutan. When we were there, only one stopped by. The centre also runs a rehabilitation program for orphaned and rescued Orangutans. You can see the youngsters practice their climbing and swinging skills in the nursery.
Directly across the street from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre is the Sun Bear Conservation centre. This is the only place in the world dedicated to rehabilitating and conserving the Sun Bear. From the observation platform you can watch the bears as they play, eat, nap and if you are lucky, demonstrate their superior climbing skills.
Scuba Dive Sipadan
Sipadan is the destination in Borneo if you are a scuba diver. Sipadan is known as one of the world’s best scuba diving locations. Permits to dive here are limited, and you need to dive a minimum of three – four days in order to qualify for a permit. If you are tight on time, you can dive some of the areas around Sipadan without a permit. This is what Dan did as he only had time for two days of diving in the Sipadan area.
Cruise the Kinabatangan River
Our favourite experience in Borneo – by far – was our time spent on the Kinabatangan river. We stayed at the Bilit Adventure lodge and went on three very different river cruises. Even though each cruise visited the same section of the river, our morning, afternoon and evening cruises were nothing alike each other. At each time of the day different animals would emerge to amaze and delight us. There was such a high density of bird life and different monkey species that at some points we could hardly decide where to point our camera.
I did have a favourite moment though. We spotted a female Hornbill who decided to stop on a tree immediately next to the river and have a meal of figs. We took so many photos of her grabbing figs, tossing them up in the air and swallowing them whole.
Orangatans in Semenggoh
This is our only place on the list in the province of Sarawak, on the western side of the island of Borneo. Semenggoh is only a 40 minute drive from the capitol of Kuching, making it the most accessible Orangutan centre in Borneo. Even though the Semenggoh centre is smaller and has fewer Orangutans than the Sepilok centre in Sabah, we actually had a better and more “wild” experience here then in Sabah.
We stood on the viewing platform. Waiting, waiting and waiting some more. We thought maybe we wouldn’t see any Orangutans, we were preparing ourselves for the disappointment, when suddenly we saw a dark shape moving through the trees. We went from expecting to see no Orangutans, to watching a group of four gracefully swing through the tree tops to arrive at the feeding platform. It was simply stunning.
Scuba Dive Kota Kinabalu
You don’t need to go to Sipadan to go scuba diving in Borneo. The most accessible dive spots in Borneo are without a doubt, in the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park which is just on the doorstep of Kota Kinabalu. Here you can dive, take dive courses, or even do try dives if you don’t have the time or desire to get properly certified. This is the best spot to dive for those with budget or time restraints, as you don’t have to travel all the way to Sipadan. It’s also great if you are travelling with a non diver. In Sipadan, there is pretty much nothing to do in the area if you are not a diver. But here, the capital city of Kota Kinabalu, and all that is has to offer, awaits your non diving companions.